Pastor sues after mix-up leads to traffic stop

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COBB COUNTY, Ga. - A Cobb County pastor is suing a car dealership because a manager’s wife called 911.

Channel 2’s Eric Philips learned how a mix-up led to a traffic stop on Austell Road. Police dash cam video showed officers pulling over the pastor in his brand new Chevy Camaro with their guns drawn.

“We still cry about it,” Pastor Frank Johnson told Philips.

The pastor, football coach and Cobb County volunteer of the year was on his way home from dinner with his wife, when they both ended up with guns pointed at them. They were forced out of the Camaro that they paid for with cash.

It's been more than a year, but the couple said they remember the incident like it was yesterday.

“I still have nightmares about it, just to see all the guns they had on us,” Johnson’s wife, Pamela, said.

The January 2012 ordeal started when the wife of a manager at Douglas County’s John Thornton Chevrolet where the Johnsons bought the car called 911.

“This would be more of a citizen alert,” the woman told 911 dispatchers.

She explained that a black Camaro had been stolen from the dealership, and she was suspicious because the temp tag on the bumper of the car she was following did not have an expiration date on it.

The 911 operator alerted police.

“They're just going to explain to them that a car has been stolen, and they're just checking it out right?” the caller asked.
   
“Yes,” the operator replied.

“OK, because I’m going to feel really bad if this is wrong,” the caller said.

Later in the call, the 911 operator said the stop could become a felony stop with guns drawn, and that's what happened.

“(They) took us down to the ground, guns drawn.  (It was) just total humiliation and embarrassing,” Johnson said.
 
The Johnsons were released because there was a valid temp tag posted in the rear window. Cobb County police said they acted appropriately based on the information they were given.

The Johnsons have filed a lawsuit against the dealership, the manager and his wife.  A statement from the dealership says in part, "None of the defendants ever represented to any law enforcement agency that [the] vehicle being driven by the Johnsons was stolen. The ultimate decision of how an investigation should be conducted was not made by John Thornton Chevrolet."

“For this to happen to us really damaged us, mentally,” Johnson said.

“I hope it makes a difference that people can know that this can happen to them,” Mrs. Johnson said.

The statement from John Thornton Chevrolet adds that it's unfortunate that the incident occurred, but that the dealership nor the manager nor his wife did anything wrong. 
   
The Johnsons said they'll fight the lawsuit and fully expect to win.



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